Saturday, June 18, 2011

I'll Follow the Sun

Just a few days past the famous Bloomsday and of course Captain Picard Day, today is International Solar Day!   

Seriously though folks, of all the green power/clean energy forms out there in various stages of practicability and promise, solar power always has seemed to me to be the most sensible form, with the most potential.

 The sun after all is the ultimate source of all our energy, so why not go right to the source?  Plus--and this to me is the best argument and solar's greatest advantage: its technologies are theoretically and practically the most diversified and scalable.  Unlike wind farms that have to be huge, or wave power that has to be in the ocean, solar power can be generated by very big devices for a lot of people, or by very small devices for a few.  And these days, solar power can be just about anywhere.

I think that's the future: a system that provides redundancy and autonomy, where you have enough power to run your house or even individual devices as well as your city and region.  Solar devices can eventually be made so small that we can wear them, or string them on the outside of vehicles to run them.

With almost no one noticing, solar power has been dropping in price for decades, and new breakthroughs may well be on the horizon to drive the costs down further--the Obama administration is betting on at least one of these.

I'll leave it to the experts to make the range of technical and economic arguments.  But regarding the whole climate crisis/energy crisis future, this is one of the few things I've got a good feeling about.  Other technologies, including some pretty exotic bio-based ones, should also be explored, but as for me, I'll follow the sun.     

Two Milestones in Modren Living

Two milestone moments recently--one not surprising, the other more so.

The U.S. Postal Service announced that for the first time, it was handling more junk mail than first class mail.  Although first class mail is reportedly its financial backbone, I kind of thought this milestone had been passed a long time ago.  We certainly get more junk mail than first class mail, and I use maybe one stamp a month.

Also recently, Amazon announced that for the first time, it was selling more e-books than real books.  This did surprise me, even though this seemed in the works for years.  I didn't think it would happen this soon.

I suspect its the Kindle, which did catch on, and which Amazon has been promoting relentlessly.  Apparently the Kindle has been a hit especially with women, and since women buy most of the books, I guess this makes sense.

I'd have to see a breakdown of titles being sold via ebook versus real book to be sure, but I suspect that a lot of the books sold for Kindle and such devices are the kind you'd just as soon throw away when you're finished--when you know whodunit, or who done whom, or such equally disposable nonfiction.  So in that sense, there may not yet be a mortal threat to real books.

I suppose it was a bit of a surprise to me for the same reason the Postal Service story wasn't.  I don't use first class mail much anymore, but I don't have a Kindle, and don't want one.  At least not yet.  I still prize the physicality of books, and besides, ebooks aren't any cheaper really.  Plus there's something weird about buying a book and not really owning it--it still resides somehow on somebody else's cloud, where Amazon or somebody can decide who gets to read it, how and when and even whether.  No thanks.  Too modren for me.      

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Ending, Maybe

Catherine Ferguson Academy was a unique school in the Detroit public school system.  It educated 250 high school girls at a time, pregnant or new mothers, offering daycare to more than 100 of their babies.  The girls helped run a small farm, in addition to academic studies that all together provided a plus 90% graduation rate, and a high percentage going on to higher education.

But when Michigan strengthened its laws giving power to single overseers, and the one in charge of Detroit public schools set his sights on Catherine Ferguson, controversy ensued.  Students getting set to begin a sit-down protest strike in the school were hauled out and arrested, while police sirens wailed to block out their cries.  All this got the attention of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC who did several segments on the school and its plight, including on Wednesday, which was the day that Catherine Ferguson was slated to close forever.

The city's newspapers belatedly but strongly decried the decision to close the school.  A protest rally was scheduled for noon Thursday, with Danny Glover among the speakers.  But then the apparent Hollywood ending--at the last minute the announcement came that Catherine Ferguson Academy had been saved--taken over as a charter school, with the promise of more resources.

It was a perfect ending---maybe too perfect.  The company that will run the school (and made a deal the same day for two other public schools that would close but send its students to their charter school) seems to have a record working with disadvantaged kids, and seems initially at least a much better choice than another company rumored to be in the running, which ran a school with a graduation rate closer to 10%.

But the whole thing was suspect from the beginning.  The decision to close Catherine Ferguson was ostensibly to save the city money, but most of its budget was paid for by federal and state grants.  There were other schools closed, but the money saved was far short of expectations. 

Two things are certain: a private company now has what once was a groundbreaking and highly successful public school, and just as pointedly, the teachers at Catherine Ferguson will no longer be union members.

So excuse me for being a little suspicious of all this, the timing in particular, and of what will happen over the next year or two at Catherine Ferguson, once the celebs have left and the cameras have moved on. 

I suspect that thought has also crossed the mind of the school's founding principal,  Asenath Andrews.  Amidst the joy and relief of the school not closing, she mentioned to Rachel Maddow on Thursday (transcript not yet posted) that she hoped she felt the same way the next day, or next year, when she might need to go on Rachel's program again.  Maddow also made a cheery but definite point of saying she will keep in touch, and will visit the school in the future.         

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Climate Outside: Wet and Dry

photo: NY Daily News

Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground on Tuesday:

"Nature's fury reached new extremes in the U.S. during the spring of 2011, as a punishing series of billion-dollar disasters brought the greatest flood in recorded history to the Lower Mississippi River, an astonishingly deadly tornado season, the worst drought in Texas history, and the worst fire season in recorded history. There's never been a spring this extreme for combined wet and dry extremes in the U.S. since record keeping began over a century ago, statistics released last week by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reveal."

Also on Tuesday, the head of the Forest Service testified before a Senate committee:

"As fires like the voracious Wallow Fire spread throughout the Southwest, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior are being pressed to offer solutions. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, one of the witnesses present at the hearing, cited research from within the service to link fires and climate change.

"Throughout the country, we're seeing longer fire seasons, and we're seeing snowpacks that, on average, are disappearing a little earlier every spring," he said, as well as devastating droughts. As a result, fire seasons have lengthened by more than 30 days, on average.

"Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate," said Tidwell....

According to the daily fire site report released by the National Interagency Fire Center, 1.2 million acres is burning in the United States, nearly two-thirds of it in the Southwest.

Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) introduced discussion on several funding and management initiatives from U.S. public lands agencies... Bingaman tied many of this year's natural disasters to climate change in his opening address, citing the recent "America's Climate Choices" report from the National Academy of Sciences.  "Since climate change will continue into the future, we can expect the incidences of severe weather and the further drying out of the already arid regions of the West to continue," he said.

Also taking on the connection between wildfires and climate change, this New Republic article:

"The Wallow wildfire is still raging after more than two weeks, today becoming the largest wildfire in Arizona history. The Wallow wildfire has already burned over 733 square miles, but as of yesterday, only 18 percent had been contained, with more than 4,000 firefighters working to put it out. The monster fire has some people wondering—does climate change mean there will be more fires like this in the future?

Probably, scientists say. A study by A.L. Westerling and H.G. Hidalgo called “Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Fire Activity” found that wildfire frequency in the western United State “increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s.” The authors argue that climate change is a better explanation for the increase in wildfires than land-use change alone, although land-use changes have also had an effect. As temperatures rose, the average number of wildfires quadrupled between 1987 and 2003, compared to the average number from 1970 to 1986. The total area burned also increased by six and a half times. The average season length (time between first wildfire and last) increased 64 percent. Additionally, the authors found a correlation between wildfire frequency and the timing of the first snow melt.

Westerling and Hidalgo note that climate change will likely exacerbate these trends. “Virtually all climate-model projections indicate that warmer springs and summers will occur over the region in coming decades,” they note. “These trends will reinforce the tendency toward early spring snowmelt and longer fire seasons. This will accentuate conditions favorable to the occurrence of large wildfires, amplifying the vulnerability the region has experienced since the mid-1980s.” They also fear a feedback loop. Citing studies that estimate that western forests capture 20-40 percent of CO2 in the United States, Westerling and Hidalgo note that sparser forests cannot absorb as much carbon, further increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and exacerbating the greenhouse effect. If current temperature trends continue, we could be putting out a lot more fires."

But maybe if they just arrest some hikers who may or may not have neglected to put out their camp fire, everything will be okay.  And so it's fine for GOPers in the House to cut disaster preparedness funding by $1.5 billion, and for Mittless Romney to advocate for the privatization of FEMA and disaster relief, which is sure to be a profit center for the future.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Climate Inside: Knowing the Shadow

Note: This is one of a series of posts under the label Climate Inside.  Previous posts were on Jungian concepts of projection, denial and an introduction.

Those unacknowledged and repressed elements of ourselves we may project on others come from the unconscious, from what Jung called "the shadow."  Our sense of ourselves comes from the conscious ego, the bright and solid face and form we see in the mirror and show to the world.  But we also carry with us a large part of ourselves that is kept in darkness.  It follows us as a shadow does.

"The shadow is that part of us we fail to see or know," writes Robert A. Johnson in his very useful little book, Owning Your Own Shadow.  Into our personal shadow we relegate aspects of ourselves that we've learned are bad, that civilized society and our particular culture in our particular time and place tell us are wrong, or not useful to us.  They are feelings and behaviors that aren't part of the identity of a real man or real woman, a gentleman or a lady, a real American, a civilized person, a dressed for success person, etc.

But these feelings and behaviors are part of the human heritage.  Cultures in the past have tried to deal with them by somehow acknowledging them in order to discourage destructive behaviors resulting from them.  Our culture, dominated by a particular form of Christianity but also in other ways, tries to deny their existence.  Instead of using methods of understanding and dealing with these impulses, our culture insists they are outside what's human: they are the work of the devil.  But even among those who reject religion (though they are inevitably influenced by the culture shaped by Christianity and other forces) and take a scientific attitude, many deny the existence of the shadow, as well as other aspects of the psyche, as unscientific superstition.  

When an entire society denies that the elements of the personal shadow are part of being human, it sustains a collective shadow.  The collective shadow is a kind of cultural possession, leading to destructive projections and their very destructive consequences.  Marie-Louise von Franz connects the two, suggesting for instance that people fell into the collective shadow of Naziism first through their personal shadows.  Perhaps they went along with Hitler for their own economic gain, and wound up being captive to activities that were much worse than they would normally have done.  Certainly this was true of those who took financial advantage of the persecution of Jews in Germany, as it was here in California of those who took the property of Japanese Americans sent to camps during World War II.

Let's pause here for a moment to emphasize that in all of these psychological processes--denial, projection and the shadow itself--there is a positive as well as negative side.  Denial of a kind keeps people from unhealthy obsessiveness and a sense of helplessness.  Positive projections form one basis for empathy.  And the shadow contains all rejected qualities, including positive ones that a person or society doesn't value and may be ashamed of.  For instance a man might consider tenderness as unmanly, and a culture may call it unmasculine, so it goes into the shadow.  Or generosity may be frowned upon as being dumb, or not looking out for number 1 or even number 1's family.  "Curiously, people resist the noble aspects of their shadow more strenuously than they hide their dark sides," Robert Johnson writes.

But besides being the source of so much destructiveness, the shadow itself, the unconscious itself, is of enormous value to the individual. There are familiar myths and stories that deal with the division of light and dark within people, such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  But there's another story that explores the value of both sides--it's a famous episode of the original Star Trek series, called "The Enemy Within," in which a transporter accident divides Captain Kirk into two Kirks. One is his good side--reasonable, contemplative, courageous, but indecisive and unable to understand evil.  The other is his dark side--animalistic and driven by appetites, violent and cowardly, full of rage and cunning, but also decisive, strong and energetic.

After observing both Kirks, the ever-analytical Mr. Spock observes to McCoy, “His negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence, and his positive side, which earth people describe as compassion, love, tenderness.” Then he asks, “What is it makes one man an exceptional leader? We see indications that it is his negative side that makes him strong---that his evil side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength.”

Eventually McCoy agrees, and confronts the good Kirk. “Jim, you’re no different than anyone else. We all have our darker side. We need it. It’s half of what we are. It’s not really ugly—it’s human. Yes, human. A lot of what he is makes you the man you are” McCoy is forced to agree with Spock, “Your strength of command lies mostly in him.”

“What do I have?” the good Kirk asks. “You have the goodness…” “Not enough!” “The intelligence, the logic---it appears your half has most of those, and perhaps that’s where man’s essential courage comes from. For, you see, he was afraid. You weren’t.”

Then the good Kirk, who is also the conscious Kirk, confronts himself. "I have to take him back inside myself, I can’t survive without him. I don’t want to take him back! He’s a thoughtless, brutal animal! Yet it’s me! Me!”  It is only when the two are integrated--in Trek fashion, through the transporter--that Captain Kirk reemerges.

It's a script for which Jung could have been the scientific advisor.  People must accept their opposites consciously, and use their consciousness to deal with them, while respecting and honoring the unconscious for all that it provides--not only in leadership over oneself, but in creativity and getting in touch with the profound mysteries of existence.  And it takes work, techniques, eternal vigilance and lifelong comittment.  But it's also a satisfying process of connecting with yourself and life itself.

The danger for individuals and the people associated with them--family members, neighbors, co-workers, lovers, friends--is the unconscious projection of images from the shadow.  When someone denies tendencies within themselves, they have to go somewhere, and often they are projected on others.  Individuals who do this not only see what may well not be there (at least to such a great degree) in another, while failing to see what's prompting this eruption from within themselves.

But all of this becomes even more dangerous in the public sphere, as individual shadows come together to create large and powerful collective shadows.  "The tendency is see one's shadow 'out there' in one's neighbor or in another race or culture is the most dangerous aspect of the modern psyche," Johnson writes.  "The ego becomes unable to hold its own among the primitive impulses and dissolves in mass movements," writes Robert Bly in another useful little book, A Little Book on the Human Shadow.

  A contemporary Jungian, Samuel L. Kimbles, puts it in more textbook terms. He defines "complexes" as "basic, naturally occurring" patterns that "express themselves in powerful moods and repetitive behaviors...Without psychological work complexes function compulsively and autonomously through our reactions to others and the world, i.e. through projections.  Caught in such automatic modes of acting and reacting, we feel moved or carried by the force of a powerful energy over which we have little control.  Psychologically, this can lead to an inflated sense of one's own righteousness or a deflated sense of one's own inferiority in relation to others."

It sounds very primitive, and not something common in the rational modern world--at least until you look around, and look behind the pretenses of objectivity and "fair and balanced."  But of course it does happen, and without psychological reflection, the instruments of the modern world only amplify group projections and mass psychoses. Hitler and Mussolini used radio.  Today the Internet is a powerful addition to the communications arsenal, for just as it empowers individual voices, it empowers and amplifies individual shadows.

 Besides the ease of communicating globally, the Internet provides relative anonymity and the lack of face-to-face contact which is very important to sustaining projections as well as liberating people from personal responsibility for what they say, so they can unleash every vile expression from their shadows. The speed of expression, the fashion for brevity and the Internet's own brands of cliches and argot all encourage direct expressions from the unconscious.  Shadow expression is even socially acceptable and expected--for example, in the comments on political sites.  The violence of expression would be unacceptable in person--at least until Internet shadow behavior began migrating to public meetings and other occasions in real face-to-face life.

I began seeing these shadow eruptions becoming more prevalent in public life during the Clinton administration, when it seemed America was literally turning itself inside-out: consciousness was retreating into hiding while the shadow was out on Capitol Hill every day.  It's gotten noticeably worse and even more savage since President Obama was elected.  It is the savagery of some of his opponents that they project using the convenient African American stereotypes.

 But it is a longer term problem, of course.  Some of the energy may well be coming from a general dehumanization in this crowded, fast, complex world, and in this society dominated by mechanized lives, large dominant organizations, monopoly capitalism that devalues the individual, and sees people just as markets to sell products to, including pills to soothe their behavioral symptoms.  Diplomat and friend of Jung Laurens van der Post suggested that these pressures on the individual have destroyed democracy, and in these conditions the shadow tends to come to the surface.

We return finally to Jung:

"The great events of world history are, at bottom, profoundly unimportant.  In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual.  This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations take place, and the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately springs as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals." 

"In our most primitive and most subjective lives, we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers.  We make our own epoch."

These concepts are only a few of the ideas in Jung and post-Jungian psychology, and I've presented only a very basic version of them.  Besides which I am hardly an expert.  But I see them as tools of reflection that empower individuals with concepts to test their own perceptions and behaviors.  And perhaps to help them guide themselves to clearer understandings of their own lives and selves, as well of as public policy issues.  With these tools and others, individuals can take some sort of control over themselves and their behavior in the world, that would otherwise elude them.

When looking at the debate over global heating--the most consequential events of our lifetime, with the future of civilization and with increasingly likelihood, that of life as we know it on Earth in the balance--the role of the psyche is only clumsily acknowledged, if at all, but it seems to explain some of what's going on.   If all we needed were reasoned arguments (as Marie-Louise Von Franz noted), we wouldn't be in the mess we're in, since we've had lots of those.  Understanding the role of the unconscious by using such conceptual tools as denial and projection seems a necessary and probably crucial task, both in general and by individuals in regards to their own perceptions and expressions.

In remarks to his associates, particularly towards the end of his life, Jung provided a warning and an encouraging word.  Jung noted that humanity had become so technologically powerful that it could unintentionally destroy itself.  He warned that unless people reflect and take back their projections, and take back their opposites into themselves, there will be total destruction in the world.

 But Jung also noted that a human being who withdraws his shadow from his neighbor is doing work of immense political and social importance.

  Living in the shadows may mean being blind to lies, dismissing contrary claims out of reflexive hostility and projection of motives on others.  But there are reasons in reality for such excesses, both in terms of the violence of psychological responses, and in what motivates them.  A few thoughts on the case for resentment next time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer and Smoke

photo: smoke from Arizona wildfire Monday by wunderphotographer rixx.  Wildfires in two corners of Arizona continue, with one threatening to become the largest in state history.  And conditions favor it spreading today.  Fires have spilled across the border into New Mexico.

Graphic Proof

The top chart shows the share of U.S. income received by workers falling off a cliff for the past several years, while corporate profits (in the second graph) are zooming up again.  The charts--and the sad story-- are from TPM.  President Obama met with a private sector task force on creating jobs that provided suggestions, but confirmed just how difficult the task is.  Still, it seems time to point out what's happening and how GOPers in Congress are deliberately obstructing job creation efforts for political motives.

Monday, June 13, 2011

And the Winner of the GOPer Debate Is---

WASHINGTON—According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted this week, a homemade anti-Obama sign has surged to the front of the 2012 Republican presidential field, emerging as the clear favorite to earn the party's nomination in next year's primaries.

The telephone survey of 773 likely voters indicated the sign, a piece of poster board bearing the handwritten phrase "NOBAMA 2012" in bold red letters, would defeat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, its nearest rival, by a landslide 17 percentage points if the primaries were held today. The poll also found the sign had a "favorable" or "highly favorable" rating among 94 percent of registered Republicans, a figure greater than all other presumptive GOP candidates combined.

"We're seeing that voters find the sign more charismatic, more likeable, and much more engaging than other Republican candidates," said political analyst Mark Halperin, adding that the poster's message resonates strongly with conservatives. "In the end, it comes down to two things: the ability to energize the party base, and the power to instill confidence and appear presidential. Right now, it's the sign by far."

"Frankly," Halperin added, "this is the brightest star to emerge from the Republican ranks in the last several elections."

According to Halperin, the 22-by-28-inch poster emerged as a serious contender for the Republican nomination because it offers a clear, consistent vision and refuses to compromise on its fundamental principles.--

Reported by The Onion

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Climate Inside: Us Versus Them

art by Anthony McCall at Serpentine Gallery
 Projection has become the main and most effective political tool wielded by Republican operatives and the extreme right. Nearly everything they say is a variation of the school yard taunt: “That’s what you are, what am I?”

Apart from the cynical politics of the Big Lie, some of the power of this comes from vengeance, for the left’s calling Bush and Cheney etc. fascists, Hitler, anti-Christ, etc. when they were in power. So now Obama is Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and the anti-Christ all in one.

But projection is a big and very powerful part of it. It is particularly powerful when projections are reinforced within a group that defines itself in large measure by asserting the same projections. Moreover, the power increases when the object of the projections is also an identifiable group. Then it becomes Us versus Them.

This is most apparent in wars. The enemy is composed of cold-blooded killers, who have no regard for human life. They hate us. They are so perverse than they aren’t even human. In modern wars, they are like machines without conscience. They murder, rape and torture without a thought. They worship false gods or no gods. They fight to conquer and suppress people. They are nothing but evil.

Allies anti-German World War II

North Korean anti-American, Korean War


We on the other hand are good. We fight for right. We don’t seek war, and we are humane as possible. We worship the right deity, and our culture reflects our intelligence and decency. We don’t fight for conquest or power. We don’t torture, though if we do, it’s because it gives us information necessary to our defense that we can’t get in any other way. We fight for freedom.  That's what We all say, and what We all believe.

Factually, some of our claims about ourselves and about the enemy are true. (But some of their claims about themselves and us are also true.) But defining ourselves as opposites is what allows this projected dynamic: that the enemy is totally evil and we are totally good (when in daily life we hardly ever run into people like that.) The enemy is completely foreign, everything that we aren’t, including not really human. The enemy is the Other.

“The other” is not just a Jungian or even psychological term. (And in this general meaning, it is different from the way French deconstructionists use it.) It simply means people who aren’t us—usually people we don’t have a lot of contact with. We define ourselves partly by who we aren’t, and who we aren’t is The Other.

Basically, projection is defining others— and especially in defining The Other—with what you are afraid you might be capable of. It doesn’t mean others don’t have evil tendencies, but that projection exaggerates those tendencies and defines others by them.

Of course, real enemies exist and defending against aggression may be necessary, but projections go far beyond that.  “The real existence of an enemy upon whom one can foist off everything evil is an enormous relief to one’s conscience,” Jung writes. “You can then at least say, without hesitation, who the devil is; you are quite certain that the cause of your misfortune is outside, and not in your own attitude.”

Just how powerful projection is can be suggested by looking at what people say about their enemies in wartime—especially when, not many years later, their enemies have become friends.

Consider what one President called the enemy who is “aiming at the exclusive domination” of the world, “lost in corruption” and with “deep-rooted hatred towards us, hostile to liberty wherever it endeavors to show its head, and the eternal disturber of the peace of the world.”

That was said by President Thomas Jefferson in 1815, of the British. From a geopolitical perspective, there was probably a lot of truth in it. But the language is that of wartime propaganda, which Jung calls the extreme of projection. Even worse was said of the Russians throughout the Cold War, and now we’re trading and security partners, and our astronauts work together on the International Space Station. Ditto the Japanese and the Vietnamese.

The Other is especially easy to define when the physical characteristics of color and race are different. The Japanese in World War II, Koreans, Vietnamese, were all racially stereotyped. The settling of America depended on considering American Indians as the Other, as less than human. Slavery in the West depended on Africans being considered inferior, less than human. Both groups were vile, without conscience, until they were subjugated, and then they were childish dependents. But you have to be careful because they can revert to violence at any time. 

Often we don't really know much about the Other.  They are strangers, and therefore strange. That makes it easier to project onto them. But human communities have long had a double response to strangers. There is fear of aggression. But there has also always been recognition of benefits. Strangers mean the possibility of trade, new ideas, and help from outside when it is needed. Sustaining peaceful relations with others is deeply embedded in the oldest cultures—in encouraging intermarriage, for instance, or in peaceful competitions, from potlatches to games. The oldest cultures value hospitality to strangers and retain its rituals. In one of many tragic ironies, hospitality to strangers in a particular tradition in Iraq.  There is an uneasy tension in these responses, but projections take just one side, and make it everything.

Wartime demonstrates how pervasive and super-heated projections can get--and how hard it becomes to accept that some of the traits that define the Other are demonstrably in Us.

Fear under other circumstances is easy to isolate and exaggerate, and fear of the Other is a chief tool of demagogues throughout history. For Hitler the Others were the Jews and the Slavs, Catholics and homosexuals. Today in America the Others are Muslims, Mexicans and other immigrants, and homosexuals. Politicians of the extreme right compete to demonize these groups.

Projection on The Other is more difficult when you know people in that group—when the Other is in some sense one of us. But that’s not the whole answer. For many years, African Americans have been chief among the Others in America. Whites resisted integration partly because it meant that some projections would no longer be possible. It would no longer be possible to consider the entire race as inhuman and lacking in intelligence. But that doesn’t mean the projections have stopped. They are buried deep in the cultural components of individual psyches.

Those racial projections emerged with the election of Barack Obama. Even before Obama ran, political and cultural observers suggested that racism had not disappeared in America, but only gone underground. It was no longer overt, because racial prejudice against African Americans had become culturally disapproved. Besides, life is more integrated, which short-circuits some projections. So in order to project all manner of evil onto President Obama, it became necessary to define him as Other—as literally foreign.

But some good old-fashioned racist stereotypes bubbled up as well.

Demagogues use positive as well as negative projections: that is, defining Us as well as Them. By defining “American” in a restrictive manner, and by making the rest of the world into The Other (which is the outcome of the Right’s definition of American Exceptionalism), everything evil is projected onto Others, allowing the self-image to be of nothing but Good. And anybody who doesn't agree that everything about America has always been and is always Good by definition is of the Other.  The only problems are caused by the conspiracy of Others to defile the Good and install Evil.  We want our country back.

What’s the point of identifying projection? It helps account for the emotional power and extremism of our political polarities. It's not that people are too stupid to understand the facts. Projection is natural, powerful and unconscious, and until it is made conscious, its content continues to feel like certainties, which accumulate their own rationalizations. These kinds of projections appear on all sides. I’ll never forget the look of contempt on the face of a man wearing a Save the Whales t-shirt as he regarded a group of people watching a sporting event on television in a bar (plus, this was in Canada.) But these days, the addition of the racialized Other that President Obama symbolizes, as well as the powerful machinery supporting these projections, makes the far right far and away the champions of political projection and the resulting extremism.

Political figures have promoted and exploited such projections for a very long time. Today the information environment provides the means for targeting audiences to create and sustain projections that define a group. The Christian Right has been doing this for decades, and talk radio as well as Fox news has created an overlapping Us that feeds off the Christian Right and coopts it. We’ve seen some attempts to use this closed circuit world to sustain a presidential campaign, and we may see a bigger attempt if Sarah Palin declares as a candidate. Rachel Maddow has predicted that she might well restrict her interviews to Fox and extreme right media—to the Us that’s characterized by “grievance, resentment and belonging.”

(Here's a fuller Maddow quote from her program: "FOX News took the Rush Limbaugh formula and adapted it for television in 1996. The FOX News slogan of “fair and balanced” when what they‘re mostly doing is right wing commentary has always seemed to the rest of the world like an affront—fair and balanced? It‘s like a mockery of the terms fair and balanced. But to the FOX audience, it is really the core of what they are offering. You cannot trust anyone else to talk to you. Everyone else is out to get you. Ask somebody who is a FOX News aficionado what they think about the fair and balanced slogan. You will hear them use it without irony and with criticism because they believe that the only place they can get fairness and balance is from FOX, that the rest of the media is biased and only FOX is the truth. They‘re selling their audience grievance, resentment and belonging.")

The sense of grievance, while having real substance that society ignores to its peril, can also be a way to project onto the outside world what one can’t admit or deal with as an individual. It can be motivated by fear, by anger, by guilt and by a convoluted sense of shame, based in part on not measuring up to the positive projections of idealized figures, such as the rich and famous.

In a revealing Rolling Stone piece by Tim Dickinson, author Richard Perlstein makes this point: “What Nixon did—and what [Fox News chief Roger] Ailes does today in the age of Obama—is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful human emotions: shame. He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilizes it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”

The politics of resentment creates a mirror world in which projecting tendencies on others allow those tendencies to be given free reign within the group, ostensibly as self-defense. One new study suggests that white Americans believe discrimination against them has increased (it also suggests that facts can’t compete with projections in political views.) Extreme right whites are convinced that President Obama is taking their tax money to give to black people and brown immigrants. So the extreme right has to be xenophobic and defend themselves, for they are the victims of discrimination on the basis of race. In a larger sense, the restoration of white privilege is what restoring America and American freedoms means to them. You can hear them say this, but they seldom can hear themselves.

The very wealthy have been exploiting the resentment of the very not-wealthy for generations, particularly in the push-button targeting of race. They’ve also used patriotic and religious association to create an idealized all-white version of capitalist America, as opposed to the socialist, welfare state (welfare=freeloading blacks and Latinos) of the Other.

The Us vs. Them of the Cold War (free market vs. Soviet and U.S. Communists) became the Us vs. Them of Reagan conservatives vs. liberals in the 1980s, and now the Other is defined as Obama socialists. Socialism is defined as what would have been regarded as ordinary government functions, at least until the 1980s. This is probably the most dangerous Us vs. Them issue for the future: the demonization of government at the time its role is most needed.  (Yet even this is a matter of perception by projection. In many ways, government has become more intrusive in state governments won by Republicans in 2010.)

But not in my lifetime has the polarization of American politics been this extreme. There has always been reflexive political opposition to whatever the other party is for, but not this extreme. The Republican House refused even to honor the Navy Seals team that took out Osama bin Laden, because President Obama is their Commander-in-Chief. That wasn’t on a matter of principle—that’s just one more way of saying that Obama is not the real President, no matter what he does, and that we have a Republican Tea Party Christian Right America plus a conniving cabal of Democrats etc. that happen to live here for the moment. Things like this happen all the time now, things that never would have happened at any time in the past 50 years.

This is what political polarization really is, on the level of the psyche: an Us versus Them world, with some real ideological, political and cultural differences, but made extreme by, among other things, projection. Not much else can account for the extreme right believing what is factually not true, because their media and their heroes always tell the truth, and the media and villains of Them always lie.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,President Obama has said several times, “but not to their own facts.” However, the emotional power of projection makes opinions into facts.

Only the psyche can explain the intense power of this, but “we know nothing about it,” and ignore and disdain it. Reasoned argument on content can only get so far before running up against the resistance of the psyche. Different additional strategies are necessary, beginning with trying to understand the mechanics of denial and projection, but also trying to understand the point of view that adds fuel to the fire.

But before speculations on that subject, one more useful Jungian concept regarding the unconscious.  To better understand projections on the Other, there’s another concept introduced next time: the shadow.

Note: This is one of a series of posts under the label Climate Inside.  Previous posts were on projection, denial and an introduction.